Sports next big thing
It's time for a new big thing in sports, a new can't-miss event. Years ago it was baseball's home run contest. Then it was basketball's dunk competition. The last great sports idea was the NHL's Winter Classic outdoor game. So it's time for something new. Here are a few suggestions for the Next Big Thing in sports.
A true World Series
Major League Baseball calling its championship the "World Series'' is not accurate. It's a North American championship. There's little debate that Major League Baseball is the best baseball league in the world. But Japan has a pretty good league, too. We've seen players come over from Japan, such as Ichiro Suzuki and Daisuke Matsuzaka, and have major success. So, how about this: a five- or seven-game series between the MLB champ and the Japanese league champion? Rotate the site between the countries. At the end of it, you have a true world champion. And we have the perfect name for the event: the World Series.
College football playoff
I like the BCS. I truly believe that every year, the two best teams in the country play one another for the national championship. This year I'm convinced LSU and Alabama are the best teams in the land. And any team that loses even one game loses the right to complain about its lot. To those teams, such as Oklahoma State: If you wanted to play for the national title, well, you shouldn't have lost. But I will finally admit that a four-team playoff wouldn't ruin the integrity of the best regular season in sports. Heck, even an eight-team playoff probably would still make the regular season critical. If it was up to me, the BCS would remain. But a playoff seems to be the choice of the people, would draw incredible interest and easily would be the next big thing in sports.
A golf Super Bowl
Pick a great course. Invite the top 50 players in the world. Make it winner take all. The winner gets $5 million. Second place: a set of steak knives. Third place: nothing. Now in tournaments you watch a player standing over a 7-foot putt and the monetary difference between making it and possibly finishing first and missing it and possibly finishing second might be a few hundred thousand dollars, but the player will take home a few hundred thousand dollars. Now imagine the pressure of an all-or-nothing putt.
A new Superstars competition
Remember the Superstars, the show that began on ABC in the 1970s in which some of the best athletes in the world competed against one another is such sports as swimming, weight lifting, bicycling and decathlon-type sports? (Interesting fact: The show was the brainchild of former Olympic figure skating champion and analyst Dick Button). Wouldn't it be cool today to see whether Sidney Crosby or Chris Paul is a better athlete? Or who would win a race between Ray Lewis and Derek Jeter? Or who could lift more weight, Tiger Woods or Dale Earnhardt Jr.? With as much money as teams pay players these days, it's unlikely any franchise would agree to let its best players compete in a competition in which they could snap an ankle or twist a knee. But geez, wouldn't be fun?
"Football Day in America''
This is not the first time I've mentioned this idea. Each year, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. has a "Hockey Day in Canada.'' It picks a town to host a day of events that celebrate Canada's favorite sport. NHL games featuring Canadian teams are played and televised throughout the day, and features about hockey are aired. Why not do it with football in the United States? Each year a network would pick a day in the autumn and go to a town rich in football tradition -- a place such as Aliquippa, Pa., Plano, Texas, or Hoover, Ala. -- and have a day of football. Bob Costas could be the host. As far as games to build a day of programming around, there could be a marquee matchup between high school powerhouses followed by a big-time college showdown and capped off with an NFL game or two. Ratings would be through the roof.
New NBA All-Star weekend skills contests
The NBA's All-Star weekend dunk competition was cool back in the days of Dr. J and Michael Jordan, but that contest hasn't been exciting or relevant in years. There are only so many dunks before it becomes more of the same. The three-point shooting contest has become boring, too. So here are two events that could generate excitement. First, a tournament of H-O-R-S-E. You wouldn't watch, say, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James go at it in a game of trick shots? The other idea: a 2-on-2 tournament. How about a matchup of Kevin Durant and Dwight Howard against Derek Rose and Kevin Garnett? That would be a blast. Give the champions in both contests serious money to guarantee their effort. It could end up being more fun to watch than the All-Star Game itself. Want to add more spice? Put microphones on the players and air the events on HBO or Showtime while the non-pay networks run them on a seven-second delay to bleep out bad words.
An outdoor NHL All-Star Game
If you love hockey, you have to admit two things: The Winter Classic outdoor game is awesome, and the All-Star Game stinks. So why not combine the two? The problem with the All-Star Game is it doesn't feel like a real game because there's little defense and even less (as in zero) hitting. Putting the game outdoors wouldn't change the on-ice product, but it might spruce up the overall event and give it a more festive feel, which is sort of the point of an All-Star Game anyway. The downside is that many NHL cities wouldn't be able to host a game, but then again, why limit the game to NHL cities? Why not put the game in places such as Quebec City; Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan; Madison, Wis.; Montpelier, Vermont, and Fargo, N.D. Those folks follow the NHL, too. Why not make them feel a part of the league?